University Hospital Limerick (UHL) has announced the temporary cancellation of all elective and outpatient services due to “exceptionally high” admissions at the hospital’s Emergency Department (ED).
There were 317 people awaiting admission to a hospital bed across the country today according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, including 275 patients on trolleys in emergency departments, and 42 on trolleys on wards.
The highest number of patients waiting for admission on trolleys was at UHL (51), followed by Cork (41), and University Hospital Galway (28).
A UHL spokesman urged those in its 400,000 catchment area, across Limerick city and county, Clare and north Tipperary, to consider other care options before attending the Limerick ED, such as local injury clinics, as the hospital “manages exceptionally high emergency presentations and admissions”.
All elective activity and outpatient clinics have been cancelled from Wednesday July 28th to Friday July 30th “in order to de-escalate the site and assist with patient flow”.
'Manage risk and stabilise the site'
The spokesman said emergency care will continue at UHL, and that the UL Hospital Group’s five other hospitals, including University Hospital Maternity Hospital, Limerick, Ennis, Nenagh, St Johns, and Croom Orthopedic Hospital, were unaffected.
The de-escalation of services at UHL “is necessary to manage risk and stabilise the UHL site in advance of what is anticipated to be a busy Bank Holiday weekend,” he said.
“We regret the impact these cancellations will have on patients who had expected to attend for their procedures this week. Patients directly affected by this decision are being contacted directly by UL Hospitals Group, and will be rescheduled at the earliest opportunity.”
The spokesman said that within a 24-hour period to 8am this Tuesday morning, 265 patients attended the department, which “is far in excess of the 195 average attendances at our ED recorded in 2019, the last full year pre-pandemic”.
“This followed a weekend in which attendances were far above the average attendances for the equivalent period in 2019. On Saturday, there were 207 attendances, and on Sunday, 185. The average attendance on Saturday and Sunday during July of 2019 was approximately 157.”
To help mitigate pressure on its services, UHL is implementing “additional ward rounds, accelerating discharges and identifying patients for transfer to our Model 2 hospitals, however, current demand for our services is multi-faceted”, the spokesman said.
UHL is the only Model 4 hospital in the midwest region with specialist services and a 24-hour ED, the spokesman said, adding that “high numbers of admitted patients require a level of care that, for the midwest, can only be provided at UHL”.
He said UHL management have also noted that “the number of Covid-positive patients in UHL has increased to 11 over recent days, in general, patients currently admitted to UHL are sicker and with more complicated conditions, and require longer inpatient stays to recover”.
The spokesman reminded the public that “injury units in Ennis and Nenagh are open from 8am to 8pm, and St John’s is open from 8am to 7pm, for the treatment of broken bones, dislocations, sprains strains, wounds, scalds and minor burns, and that anyone with less serious illness or conditions should contact their GPs or out-of-hours GP services”.
The spokesman reiterated emergency care was still being provided at UHL “if you are seriously injured or ill or are worried your life is at risk the ED will assess and treat you as a priority”.
“We apologise to any patient affected by the temporary cancellation of our elective and outpatient services, and to anyone who has experienced a long wait for admission to UHL during this period of exceptionally high demand for our services.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Public Health Mid West confirmed that the number of cases of Covid-19 in the region has surged in recent days and that the situation regarding the Delta variant “remains precarious”.
It warned people to avoid social gatherings and to register for vaccination, as a total of 660 cases had been identified in the region over the past 14 days, including 449 in Limerick, 113 in Clare, and 98 in north Tipperary.